Mervin Knitting Mills Circa 1905 Catalog

I’ve not been very lucky lately in the sportswear ephemera department, but then this catalog appeared on eBay. It’s precisely the type of thing I love  as it shows how women began wearing ready-made sportswear in the very early days of women’s ready-to-wear. It’s hard for us today to imagine, but until late in the nineteenth century there pretty much was not a women’s ready-to-wear industry. Cloaks and mantles – overgarments that did not need precise fitting – were the first to hit the market, and by the late 1890s, women could buy waists, skirts, and undergarments.

There’s no date to be found on my Mervin Knitting Mills catalog but a close examination of the models shows they are all sporting the S silhouette so popular in the Edwardian era. I did find one ad for Mervin, from 1909, and those sweaters all had a longer and leaner line, in keeping with how fashion was changing. So my best guess is around 1905.

Mervin made and imported a large variety of knit goods for women and children. We’d call the garments shown above cardigans or sweaters today, but Mervin Mills marketed them as knit blouses.

In many of the photos the models are holding golf clubs. Being knit, golfers must have really enjoyed the freedom a knit provided.

Many of the images of women golfers of this era show them wearing a double-breasted vest like the golf vests above. The only one I’ve actually ever seen was in an exhibition at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, several years ago.

Taken at Fashioning the New Woman: 1890 – 1925, DAR Museum, in 2013

Mervin Knitting Mills even offered a knit middy, perfect for table tennis.

Knit toques like these are commonly seen in photographs of the era, but are very rare these days.

Knit skirts like these do make it to the modern market on occasion. They are usually sold as petticoats, and I’ve seen them in period catalogs as petticoats. It would be a shame to hide those stripes though, don’t you think?

This garment was listed as a “kimona” coat. It looks a bit fancy for the golf course.

Witness2Fashion has been looking at the different terms given to various forms of lingerie in the 1920s, many of which have changed meaning or are no longer in use. Well, here’s a term I’ve never seen before, the pony coat. What makes the cardigans above pony coats? I have no idea.

Just in case some descendant of Max M. Myres is looking for information, he was the owner of Mervin Knitting Mills. located in New York City on Broadway at the corner of Broome Street. Today a Madewell clothing store occupies that address.

3 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Winter Sports

3 responses to “Mervin Knitting Mills Circa 1905 Catalog

  1. jacq staubs

    Really fascinating! I also find the Edwardian silhouette interesting translating into sportswear / sweaters. The catalog model wearing what appears to be a bangle bracelet. The “Gibson” hairdo .When we stop to think – even the cities were still horse and carriage – most of the nation was not yet with electric lights -this may very well be one of the first fashion catalogs !? Having worked in that area it really makes the imagination work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, are they calling the hats “tooks” or “tow-ques” (and does my rendering of the way they sound to me make sense, also)? And maybe the Kimona coats are aimed at pregnant women or those who are…uhm…slightly more embonpoint than other women.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m wondering if the kimona coats have cut on sleeves, the way kimono sleeves are sometimes described in the sewing world. (So the body of the sweater and the sleeve would be made as one piece.) I couldn’t quite tell from the pictures. But a pony coat…you’ve got me there.

    Liked by 1 person

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